The Impact of Technological Change on Customer Relationships

Technology reaches every single industry – from private to public sector. Companies are trying to stay ahead, be as innovative as possible to provide customers with up-to-date service and products. But many CEOs have the feeling that no matter how much they invest, they feel lagging behind. At this point, many of us forget that technology is made by human for human.

At the Global Female Leaders summit 2019, we had a great panel discussion about that topic. Three female leaders talked about how they are handling customers’ needs and technological trends in the banking and software sector. If you are interested in how they stay ahead of things, how much they actually invest in technology and how they are handling their cyber security, this article is the right one for you. You can also find more insights in the full video below.

The three participants have been Charlotte Dennery – CEO at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions in France and leading expert in topics from insurance to asset management, Beatriz Sanchez – Member of the Executive Board / Head of Region Latin America at Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. in Switzerland and an influencing leader in wealth management, and last but not least, Angela Todisco – VP HR EMEA North at SAP SE in Germany, who is shaping and executing the people strategy.

The Banking Industry is in the middle of a full disruption

Charlotte Dennery and Beatriz Sanchez both agree that the banking industry changed immensely due to technology. The daily business of a bank looked very different ten years ago. People have visited the bank several times a month. Thanks to the technological change, they now only need human interaction once a year on average.

Customers today are used to online banking on their smartphones – in fact they require this service. This is basically the main reason (according to Charlotte Dennery) why the banking industry has to invest in technology: to serve customer needs properly. In the past years, banking was about pushing products on clients. Now the client is in the center – and it does not matter whether it is a retailer, wealth management or a corporate customer.

The revolution is an exciting opportunity for banks to move on to a different level.

Beatriz Sanchez, Member of the Executive Board / Head of Region Latin America at Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd., Switzerland

According to Beatriz Sanchez, banking is the slowest industry to react to technological disruption. It was also the last one that has been disrupted, but the banking industry simply needs more time to adopt. This has several reasons. First, customer needs develop so fast that it is hard to catch up. Second, several restrictions and government regulations are stopping banks from developing as fast as they would like. However, banks already gained the needed skills and knowhow to catch up with the technological revolution. Some banks, like Goldman Sachs, are (according to Beatriz Sanchez) one of the largest coders and software producers in the world – more than some of the tech companies.

However, even if technology has taken over and disrupted the bank sector, human interaction remains extremely important for customers. Especially wealthy customers request a lot of interaction besides online banking. So the key is to combine personal interaction and technological advance.

Embrace technology and discover the opportunities

All three participants agreed that if a company wants to stay ahead of the competition, it is imperative to not only invest in new processes, coding or developers, but also in learning and training. This is not as easy as you would expect, because the loops in learning are getting very short nowadays. If you have learned something in tech, chance is that the knowledge will last for one up to two years so you always have to keep up with new things to learn.

As a company, it is our impulse to stay ahead of things. But we should not forget that technology is made by people.

Angela Todisco, VP HR EMEA North at SAP SE, Germany

Trainings should, of course, include the handling of new software and hardware – but it also needs to address cyber security. Especially in the banking sector, cyber security is absolutely essential because it is the main risk banks are facing. That is exactly the reason why this topic stays at the very top on Charlotte Dennery’s priority list. The other two experts also agree on that. Data (protection) is one of its biggest assets. If it would get lost, customers’ trust would fall with it too – and there is no possibility to get it back.

Therefore, the risk of losing any data due to cyber attacks needs to be reduced as much as possible. To do so, both BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions and Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. are spending a lot of money on implementing new systems, controls, and politics. Unfortunately, all control means nothing if the cyber lack comes from your own employees. One will never get rid of human errors, no matter how much money invested – it is always going to be a factor. So you have to protect data from outside and inside as well.

Angela Todisco admits that nothing can be a hundred percent safe – companies can only give their best to protect their data. Hackers are attacking SAP massively every single day. To protect data, all three companies invest a lot in firewalls, cyber security advisors, etc. This is the protection from outside attacks. But to guarantee protection from the inside, they also provide continuous online courses about cyber security and test their employees regularly about how they respond with fake mails for instance.

Let’s see what comes. Don’t be afraid – just embrace it.

Angela Todisco, VP HR EMEA North at SAP SE, Germany

All three experts convinced us that technological change represents a huge challenge for the banking sector. Customer needs are constantly evolving, whereas government regulations and the importance of cyber security constrain fast adoption. 

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